Spring Garden

Spring Garden's Macy Reedy shoots a 3-pointer over Loachapoka's Colby Cox. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

BIRMINGHAM — Macy Reedy was ready for her first Final Four start Monday, and her cool on the big stage helped Spring Garden give her another Final Four start later this week.

The sophomore who replaced the lone departed starter from last year’s Final Four team hit three 3-pointers, including two early, and the Panthers overcame Loachapoka’s height and length in the post to advance 40-28 in Legacy Arena.

Spring Garden (31-3) will play Phillips in Thursday’s 4 p.m. state final. The Panthers seek their sixth state title and fifth under current head coach Ricky Austin.

“It’s just a good opportunity for us to take another step and do something that this group of girls really wants to do,” Austin said. “It’s not me. It’s what these girls want to do, and they’ve established a culture of getting to get in this game.”

Spring Garden won the state title in 2016 but lost last year’s final to R.A. Hubbard after a controversial foul call on a loose ball with no time left led to the winning free throw.

“The emotions, they’re high,” said junior Payton McGinnis, who contributed eight points and eight rebounds Monday. “They’re a little indescribable, with the way it ended last year.

“That’s something you’ll think about every day at practice, even when you’re not in basketball season.”

Loachapoka finished 22-5.

In a defensive war, Spring Garden struggled mightily against Loachapoka’s size and long arms to get penetration points. Most of the Panthers’ paint points came on putbacks or free throws from fouls in the lane.

Spring Garden needed a boost from the perimeter. The 5-foot-0 Reedy, easily the smallest player on the court, stood tall.

“I was kind of nervous coming into this game, but I had to remember that I’ve been here before, and we’ve been here before,” she said. “It was kind of easy after that.”

Reedy’s two 3-pointers outdid one, banked trey from Loachapoka’s Colby Cox to give Spring Garden a 6-3 lead through one quarter.

Reedy, who stepped in for departed senior Savannah Dempsey this season, went 3-for-6 on treys for the day and finished with 11 points to help center Tiyonna Rogers, who managed 17 points on 6-for-15 shooting in the paint.

“That was big,” Austin said. “She’s been shooting really well all week. She went through a little slump right before the area tournament, and she has just been relentless in the gym, getting up more shots on her own time.”

Spring Garden, meanwhile, brought its defense and held Loachapoka to 10-for-51 (19.6 percent) shooting. Two Indian makes came on Cox’s bank-shot 3s, and she scored a team-high 14 points. Loachapoka hit five shots inside the 3-point line.

The Panthers also hit 12 of 14 free throws and outrebounded Loachapoka 46-30. Rogers pulled down a game-high 20 rebounds.

“It wasn’t a clean, pretty game,” Austin said. “Credit Loachapoka for playing us well and having a good plan, as far as defending ‘Bootsie’ (Rogers) inside and getting physical.

“One thing that stands out is rebounding. I was on the bench thinking we won this on defense, and we won this on rebounding.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.